Can you please help me in comparing the theme of education in Wilde's AnĀ Ideal Husband and Congreve's Love for Love.

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Education and class come hand in hand in both plays, Love for Love and in An Ideal Husband.

InLove for Love,Marlow is described as "bred educated", intelligent, and well-schooled man who, although brash and moody, is also able to display true emotion. Similarly, his friend Hastings is also described as well-educated. As important characters, their education precludes that they are also elegant, classy, and true gentlemen. Whether that is true at all times or not (and we know that Marlow is not always a gentleman), the fact remains that Congreve awards this trait when he puts forward how these men are particularly unique. Contrastingly, Tony Lumpkin, who could care less about his education, is the prankster of the story, the waster, and the good for nothing son of Mrs. Hardcastle. Again, we see how education seems to be correlated to good morals and gentlemanly behavior. Since Tony lacks such education, he is not to be treated as a true gentleman throughout the play.

InAn Ideal Husbandthe topic of education is most resounding around the females, who discuss whether the "good wife" of Victorian England should be submitted to the toils of "knowing too much". Lady Markby, for example, strongly believes that the "modern" Victorian women waste their time trying to become educated, when their social role as mothers and wives provide all that is needed to keep busy. Contrastingly, Lady Chiltern debates this topic and staunchly defends the rights for women to become educated academically.

Moreover, all of Oscar Wilde's plays make reference to how upperclass men either attend Oxford or Cambridge as a neccesary rite of passage. Dandies such as Lord Goring are usually portrayed as students that are "sent down" from such unversities, meaning that they got kicked out for being lazy, or "idle".

Therefore, in both cases education is synonymous with class status. Obviously the lower classes had nearly no chance to obtain a higher education. Hence, the scholar is also the gentleman, the virtuous man, and the most likely to succeed in the social ladder.

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Love for Love

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